Seen at Fantasia International Film Festival 2017, Montreal (Canada)
Format: Cinema
Release date: 25 August 2017
Distributor: Kaleidoscope Entertainment
Director: Jonathan Milott, Cary Murnion
Writers: Nick Damici, Graham Reznick
Cast: Dave Bautista, Brittany Snow, Angelic Zambrana
USA 2017
94 mins

An exceedingly dark picture that feels like it would have been at home and comfy amidst any number of classic dystopian 70s science-fiction/action thrillers.

You get off the subway in Brooklyn with your boyfriend, looking forward to introducing him to Granny. The platform is strangely empty until, naturally (it is Bushwick after all), a gent in flames barrels by, screaming in agony. As you and your beau ascend the stairs, you do so with trepidation – not only because a fiery human shish kebab has just passed by, but because you can now hear screams and gunshots from above. Your boyfriend bravely goes out to take a peek. Wrong move. He returns, near death, his flesh seared like charred corned beef. Ah well, onwards and upwards.

What pretty young Lucy (Brittany Snow) discovers is Hell on Earth. People are rioting in the streets, looting is rampant and heavily armed military personnel in snappy, though scary-ass fascistic black uniforms (replete with helmets and dark, reflective faceplates) are firing into innocent bystanders at will. Lucy barely escapes certain death and hides out in the bowels of a nearby apartment building. The idyll doesn’t last long. A few slavering gang-banger thugs assail her.

Luckily, her ass is saved by caretaker/janitor Stupe (Dave Bautista, WWE/MMA champ and the hilarious Drax in Guardians of the Galaxy), a tough-as-nails military veteran who dispatches the scumbags handily. This mismatched (clearly) pair become partners in survival as they wend their way through a veritable apocalypse.

America is under attack – by its own people. A deadly army of redneck Southern secessionists has attacked the North and have concentrated their efforts in various New York boroughs, assuming, since they’re ignorant racists, (as most Deep Southerners must surely be) that they’ll have an easier time conquering ‘ethnics’. Uh, not too bright, fellas. ‘Ethnics’ fight back.

Bushwick is blessed with a first-rate screenplay that offers a simple, solid narrative coat-hanger to deliver edge-of-the-seat suspense and plenty of action, but most off all, is infused with plenty of social/political layering and terrifically etched character shadings. This should come as no surprise to anyone who knows the name of the film’s lead co-writer, the estimable Nick Damici, a terrific character actor who’s also penned several brilliant scripts for director Jim Mickle (Mulberry Street, Stake Land, We Are What We Are, Cold in July). And yes, the script is always the thing, but it helps that co-directors Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion handle the proceedings with skill, efficiency and verve. Often utilizing several long, gorgeously shot takes, their camera whirs and glides (and not in annoying shaky cam) with the kind of expert action-movie precision that puts many of its big-budget studio blockbuster cousins to shame.

The bonus here is that both script and direction are blessed with the perfect combination of humanity and cynicism. Bushwick is an exceedingly dark picture and, happily, it feels like it would have been at home and comfy amidst any number of classic dystopian 70s science-fiction/action thrillers. The picture gave me gooseflesh and by its nasty, shocking, horrifying conclusion, I was truly, deliciously, orgasmically spent.

On a sad note, I was just informed that the North American theatrical release of this film is being (at best) truncated, or in some cases (like in Canada), outright cancelled. It is being ‘Netflixed’ out of where it belongs as the online streaming service has moved its date up and the idiot multiplexes are too full of unwatchable blockbusters to properly accommodate Bushwick. This is appalling. The movie was clearly designed for proper big-screen enjoyment. The action scenes are thrillingly, imaginatively directed and though it occasionally (and appropriately) veers into quieter interior sequences, its exteriors are blessed with scope, imagination and sweep. It’s a terrific picture and can be enjoyed in any format, but damn, on a big screen, it rocks big-time.

Greg Klymkiw